Taking on the role of a caregiver for a loved one seems like an easy choice. Most people would say that they would do it at the drop of a hat. Those who are caregivers for their loved ones, however, can attest that it is something that is far easier said than done.
Admitting that the caregiver role is extremely difficult does not reflect poorly on the caregiver nor their relationship with the patient. In fact, being honest about the difficulties associated with caregiving can strengthen the partnership between the pair, relieve unavoidable stress, and even provide immeasurable support to others in the same position. Many people caring for their loved ones with cancer were thrust into the role without much time to think or prepare.
National Foundation for Cancer Research launched the Faces and Voices of Cancer Project in 2018, a project that showcases the numerous individuals impacted by cancer. This project was designed to connect people battling a cancer diagnosis and to learn about the disease from a compassionate perspective. Thousands of people have benefitted from the sense of connectedness by feeling empowered to face another day. Through this project, it has become clear that connectedness is a major component of dealing with stress and being a caregiver is no different.
To connect caregivers and offer them support and connection, the National Foundation for Cancer Research encourages caregivers to join our Faces and Voices of Cancer Project by submitting an online form. Caregivers will have the opportunity to share their journey and hear about other people in a similar situation. The virtual storybook reminds patients and caregivers alike that no one is alone in this journey.
In addition to connecting through shared stories, other virtual platforms have developed support for cancer caregivers. The American Society of Clinical Oncology has compiled a comprehensive list of virtual support groups available for caregivers. Virtual support groups offer safety amidst a pandemic, but also cater to the busy lives of caregivers who are often running from appointment to appointment. Sharing stories with an online community not only offers emotional support during an extremely trying time, but it also provides the opportunity to learn about other treatment options and address concerns.
Caregivers can also find virtual support through phone applications. The Pocket Cancer Care Guide, for example, allows caregivers to easily compile a list of questions for healthcare professionals that can be used to guide important conversations between doctors and nurses. Caregivers can link appointments to lists within the app as well as record and play back answers from healthcare professionals to ensure accuracy for their future needs. This app also features a list of hundreds of pre-designed questions to ask organized into categories depending on the loved one’s cancer type and stage. The extensive glossary featured in the app helps caregivers understand complex medical terminology that the medical team may use in regard to the cancer diagnosis.
As technology continues to connect people and information, resources available for caregivers become more and more common. Many of the currently available apps can assist with practical needs, mental health support, and even identifying voluntary activities to support other families affected by cancer. These amazing resources help manage the incredible stress that caregivers face while reminding them that they are not alone.
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